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Raval community garden

by • April 14, 2014 • FoundersComments (3)752

Location independence is okay

When I tell people I moved to Barcelona, their first question is whether it’s a good place to start a business. To be honest, I have no idea. I just live here; my company is based in London.

I didn’t really plan to move. One morning, facing the prospect of my fifth London winter, I was wondering which cafe to work from when I had a moment of clarity and asked why I wasn’t choosing which country to work from. Most of my work is flexible and when it isn’t, flights are cheap. So I rented a flat for two weeks, flew out the next day, and found myself staying.

The first point I want to make is this: maybe you’re already more location independent than you think. The second point, which I’m about to get to, is that maybe you don’t want it, at least not in its extreme sense.

In the year and a bit that I’ve been here, I’ve put down roots. I’ve made friends and have purchased an impractical number of books. I know the local restaurant owners and just yesterday was given access to the community garden (the one in the picture above). I’ve got more potted plants than anyone ought to have and am disturbed by the thought of figuring out what to do with them if I move. And this all raises the question: have I “lost” my location independence?

Well, no. Being a “digital nomad” means you can fit your life in a backpack and that you have no home. Being location independent just means you have no prison. I tried the nomad lifestyle; it’s not for me. For example, although I’m pretty outgoing these days, I make friends slowly. The dominant sensation of my nomadism was not freedom, but loneliness.

The guys trying to get everyone to burn their roots are just as silly as the ones who insist that every company should aspire to raise funding. Maybe you don’t want what they think you want. Jacques Mattheij wrote a retrospective noting that he gets the itch to move every 5 years. It’s an authentic review, and he doesn’t paint too rosy a picture. It’s can be hard and expensive to move a life. But it’s important to remember that you have the option.

In conclusion, two observations.

First, maybe some of the constraints keeping you where you’re unhappy are self-imposed due to momentum and tunnel-vision (like me choosing which cafe without choosing which city). Which ones? How could you untangle them?

And secondly, you can probably go a bit further afield without becoming so extreme that you need to throw away your life or become an ascetic. As a starting point, it’s not so expensive to visit a city for a week. Go on Saturday, get to know it a bit, and then work Monday through Friday remotely. Congratulations: you’re location independent.

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3 Responses to Location independence is okay

  1. Michelle says:

    Yes I currently work as a location independent contractor. Choosing which cafe I like best LOL. Using my software knowledge to decide which time and place suits me. Hopefully soon I become settled enough that I have the choice of traveling as well for a week or two and just enjoy the luxury of being location independent, but still have my main location comfortable incase I change my mind.

  2. I’m programming for an US-based company for almost four years now, never been to the US and lived in four towns around Austria and Bavaria and my next home from autumn on will be Cornwall (yes, the weather is my motivation :)
    When you are living like you have to improve only one skill: Making friends. I found hanging around hackerspaces and pubs frequented by all sorts of artists is the best way to establish a few circle of friends in a new town.

    • robfitz says:

      That’s a really good point. I don’t know if I find moving easier now because I’ve learned to chat to people, or if I’ve learned to chat because I keep moving, but either way it’s hugely valuable (even critical).